Athlete, Olympian, Coach, Mentor, Team Manager, Journalist, Business Leader
Wendy Sly joined Feltham Athletics Club aged 11. She started as a sprinter and long jumper, but quickly turned to cross country and middle distances and in 1977 won her first national title: Intermediate Girls cross country, followed by gold in the 1500m in her first appearance for the British junior team that same year.
Wendy’s athletics career coincided with an era of huge change. International governing bodies were finally beginning to allow women to race longer distances, and the strictly amateur nature of athletics in England was beginning to relax. In 1980 Wendy ran 1500m trials for the Olympic team – the longest distance for women at the time. Despite coming second, she didn’t make the qualifying time because as an accomplished distance runner, ‘1500m was not long enough’.
Wendy became one of England’s first professional athletes. She joined the American road circuit in 1981, the first British woman to do so and won several races, the prize money funding her training. She won the 1981 National cross-country title and in 1982 when the 3000m was introduced for the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane and Wendy took silver.
In 1983 she moved to second on the world all-time list over 10km, won New York’s prestigious Fifth Avenue mile and ended the year in San Diego winning the IAAF’s inaugural World 10km Road Championship. She also competed at the first ever World Championships, held in Helsinki, taking 5th in both the 3000m and 1500m.
In 1984, Wendy became the first British Women to win an Olympic medal at a distance over 800m, taking silver in the 3000m.
The latter part of her career was beset by injury, though she carried on, winning 3000m bronze at the 1988 European Indoor Championship in Budapest.
After retirement from international competition Wendy’s involvement in Athletics continued, she has been Team Manager for cross-country and a mentor for female athletes making the step up from junior to senior level. She sat on the board of England Athletics, the governing body for Athletics in England and served on various sub-committees and currently sits on the board of UK Athletics. She is Managing Director of Athletics Weekly which has been publishing since 1945 and was the first running publication to give serious column space to promoting women’s athletics in the 1950s.
Wendy was awarded an MBE in 2015 for her services to athletics.